Farid El Alagui believes Neil Lennon possesses the required big-club mentality to capitalise on the foundations laid in place at Hibs by Alan Stubbs over the past two years.
The Moroccan striker was one of the Liverpudlian’s first signings after he became head coach in summer 2014 and saw at close quarters how much of an improvement he oversaw in his time at Easter Road before leaving to become Rotherham United manager last week.
El Alagui, who also exited the club after the expiry of his contract at the end of the season, knows promotion is imperative at Hibs after two failed bids to get out of the Championship. However, he believes that Lennon, who is set to accept the offer to replace his former Celtic team-mate at the helm, has the required character to build on Stubbs’ groundwork and take the club back into the Premiership.
“Guys like Neil and Alan have a big-club mentality,” El Alagui told the Evening News. “If you can handle the pressure at Celtic, you can handle it at Hibs. There is big pressure in every game at Hibs because everybody is looking to see what you’re doing. The board will have expectations of you, so you have to expect pressure when you are manager of Hibs. But Neil showed as manager of Celtic that he’s more than capable of handling pressure.
“If he takes the job, everybody at Hibs should be buzzing because if you had suggested it two years ago, I don’t think Neil would have been interested. The fact he is interested shows that Hibs is a highly-regarded club in Scotland again. He did a fantastic job at Celtic and knows how to win games. If he comes on board, it will be a big boost for the club.”
El Alagui believes the Hibs head coach role is now a far more appealing gig than it was when Stubbs took the reins two years ago, in the aftermath of relegation. “If you took a picture of where the club was when Alan arrived and where it was when he left, it would look very different,” he said. “The new manager will be able to benefit from what has been done by Alan. He had to change loads when he came in. This time it will only be little details that need changed. There is already a team in place that can win the league. The new manager will be really happy to take on this team.
“You could sense the club wasn’t in great shape before. I actually remember having the chance to sign for Hibs in 2012, just before I went to Brentford. I felt at that point the club was not in a good position and was going down a bit. But when I had the opportunity to sign again two years ago, it had a different feel. It felt like the club was trying to move forward again. Getting relegation was a bad thing but also a good thing because it allowed the club to start afresh.
“Now the next step has to be promotion, so that Hibs are back beside the likes of Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Hearts. You could see when we played those teams that we were often the better team. The club is in the wrong league at the moment.”